Age-related changes in working memory and the ability to ignore distraction

Fiona McNab, Peter Zeidman, Robb Rutledge, Peter Smittenaar, Harriet R. Brown, Rick Adams, Raymond Dolan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)
169 Downloads (Pure)


A weakened ability to effectively resist distraction is a potential basis for reduced working memory capacity (WMC) associated with healthy aging. Exploiting data from 29,631 users of a smartphone game we show that, as age increases, WM performance is compromised more by distractors presented during WM maintenance than distractors presented during encoding. However, with increasing age, the ability to exclude distraction at encoding is a better predictor of WMC in the absence of distraction. A significantly greater contribution of distractor filtering at encoding represents a potential compensation for reduced WMC in older age.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6515-6518
Number of pages4
JournalNational Academy of Sciences. Proceedings
Issue number20
Early online date4 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2015


  • Aging
  • working memory
  • distraction
  • attention


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